Iconic Maine Photos: An Offbeat Errand, Now a Revered Image

Posted 2017-01-18

‘Pentecost,’ by Island Institute Co-Founder Peter Ralston, selected as the #1 Most Iconic Maine Photo of All Time

Down East Magazine scoured 175 years worth of images to find the 10 Most Iconic Maine Photos of All Time. Acclaimed to obscure, joyful to haunting, they’re the shots that tell Maine’s story.

#1 – Pentecost by Peter Ralston

Peter Ralston’s stories have stories. That’s how it feels, anyway, when you walk into the 66-year-old photographer’s Rockport gallery, intending to talk about a single exquisite image from 1980, but instead you end up — delightedly — following a series of digressions upon digressions, road tales from a decades-long career in photojournalism.

Today, Pentecost is the most recognizable of the 24 highly recognizable images that comprise what Ralston calls his Master Prints series. It graced the first cover of the Island Institute’s Island Journal in 1984. He’s sold prints to collectors on every continent but Antarctica.

However, to hear Ralston tell it, Operation Sheep Transit was a fairly carefree affair. And while he treasures both the moment and the memory, he remains at a loss to explain the photo’s long and profound appeal.

This is the story behind the iconic photo.